In Jan. 6 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
While writing the year in review for 2010, one word seemed to be repeated over and over as the year wore on … "meth."
More than a dozen methamphetamine busts took place in Russell County last year with many folks being arrested and taken to jail and some even indicted on the charges. Meth seems to be mainstream now as it has easily become the drug of choice among many illegal drug makers and users here locally.
"The sad thing about it is what we observe is probably closer on target than what we document because it runs behind," said Donita Lawless, the grants project director for Partners in Prevention, meaning she writes grants and secures state and federal funds for the local prevention program. "You're lucky to find numbers in a year."
She said the rising number of meth busts indicated that the numbers of people "cooking" up the stuff was also steadily rising.
"It is everywhere," Lawless said. "And I think as the economy gets worse it will continue to rise."
Methamphetamine has high potential for abuse and addiction by activating the psychological reward system via triggering a cascading release of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain.
Lawless said that methamphetamine was one of the worst and most dangerous drugs she has witnessed people abuse.
"It is highly addictive and highly corrosive, just the nature of the manufacturing" she said. "Heroine and cocaine are in a more pure form, a plant derivative. It is not like taking all these manmade chemicals and putting them together. There is the danger of it exploding."
Methamphetamine labs give off noxious fumes, such as phosphine gas, methylamine gas, solvent vapors, acetone or chloroform, iodine vapors, white phosphorus, anhydrous ammonia, hydrogen chloride/muriatic acid, hydrogen iodide, lithium/sodium metal, ether, or methamphetamine vapors, according to meth data found online.
If cooked by amatuers, such as right here in Russell County, manufacturing can be extremely dangerous.
If the red phosphorus used in the process overheats because of a lack of ventilation, phosphine gas can be produced. The gas is highly toxic and, if present in large quantities, is likely to explode upon autoignition from diphosphine, which is formed by overheating phosphorus, according to law enforcement data.
Lawless said folks did not have to come into direct contact with the drug to feel the effects on your health.
"They are working on studies now through the Department for Families and Children and they are finding that children with any exposure to it are affected. It doesn't have to be direct contact; they don't have to ingest it. The residue and the fumes are enough."
There were more than 1,000 meth lab busts in the state last year, up from more than 740 in 2009, according to data from the Kentucky State Police.
One scary part about the labs are they can be anywhere, abandoned houses and barns, vehicles, motels, houseboats, places of business or even your next door neighbor's bedroom.
"If I were looking for a home to rent I would be terrified," Lawless said. "Right now there are no laws in place to protect the consumer. I know there probably will be but what happens in the meantime?"
She said meth producers are becoming bolder about where and how they manufacture the drug.
"It is very financially lucrative if you get away with it and that is very tempting to some people," she said.
Lawless said she first began to see the meth popularity rise just over three years ago.
While at a seminar in Houston she was told to be on the lookout for this new trend, as it would soon hit America's rural areas. She said the rural areas of Russell County was the perfect location to make meth but with producers getting bolder and more desperate, producers have moved into neighborhoods endangering you, your family and friends.
"It is evil," she said. "How can we combat this as a community?"
She said the talk of legislation changing Sudafed to a prescription-based medication could help but would anger many people who just used to walk into the nearest drug store and purchase the drug without delay.
"But if it would help at least one person not get on (meth) then it would be worth it," she said. She pointed out that children that come from homes where meth labs are present run a high risk of seeing symptoms. Plus their exposure to the meth fumes and residue is carried on their clothes and possessions to school where even more children may be exposed.
"I don't know what to do but raise awareness and I'm not even sure if that helps," Lawless said. She even spoke of the new "shake and bake" method of making meth which does not require a heat source in order to produce the chemical byproduct.
"It is frightening," she said. She said the "trash labs" that have been seen locally discarded in people's yards were one scary instance of how meth could affect everybody. "You're not safe anywhere."
She cautioned folks and especially children to steer clear of any unsafe looking two liter or 20 oz. bottles they may find outside.
"I hate to bring any more attention to it but they need to be warned," she said. She said 111 meth lab busts, including some in Russell County, in October of last year was the most ever for a one month period in Kentucky.
"It is like putting out little brush fires," she said of recent busts. "You put one out here and one here but there are more likely to flare up."
She said every person must take a stance against meth abuse, regardless of age, in an effort to see the drug decrease.
If anyone in the smells a strong chemical odor coming from your neighborhood please contact the Sheriff's department or your local police department because it just may be another meth lab going unnoticed.